Monday, 19 July 2010

James Nicholson MEP: One Year On

[Part of the series on the Northern Irish MEPs' first year in the 7th European Parliament]

James Nicholson (ECR) (UUP). Member of the Agriculture Committee, Vice-Chair of the Delegation to the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly. (Substitute for the Environment Committee, Regional Development Committee, and Delegation for relations for the Korean Peninsula).

Attendance in plenary: 98.28%
Loyalty to Europarty: 91.58%
Loyalty to national majority: 81.14%
Speeches: 29
Parliamentary Questions: 6
Motions for resolutions: 6
Written declarations: 0
Reports Amended: 10 (Mostly on the CAP and agriculture, but also on cancer, organ donation and transport, and food information for consumers).
Drafted Reports: 0
Opinions: 0

Nicholson’s speeches mainly focus on agriculture and food security, but he has also given speeches on cancer, organ transplants and donations, animal transport, the South Korean Trade Agreement, and on CFP reform. He’s spoken on behalf of the ECR group a surprising number of times: on the debate on agriculture in non-diary sectors, the EU-South Korean Trade Agreement, on Europol (deputising for the ECR rapporteur), the regulation on agriculture in the outermost regions of the Union, and the transportation of animals (he was in this case the “opposite number” Bairbre de Brún, the rapporteur for this piece of legislation – at least for this debate).

James Nicholson’s main focus is agriculture (where he, for instance, supports country of origin logos and opposes an EU logo), and, from these speeches, supports a limited role for Europol (stressing the sovereignty of member states), considers the 2002 CFP reform a failure, and is supportive of the legislation on animal transport and the report on organ donation and transport.

The 6 Parliamentary questions cover negotiations with Mercosur, property ownership in Spain, EEC pensions, tyre pressure safety regulations and the EU strategy against organised crime. Some of the questions are oral and some are written. Some of the written questions are fairly detailed, but all seem specific – asking about the details of EEC pension payouts, impact assessments of Mercosur trade and agricultural imports, etc.

The motions for resolution are mainly to wind up the debate on a topic or used to make a political statement, e.g. on North Korea or the diary crisis. The amendments to reports are mostly agricultural, and several are for the Future of the CAP After 2013 report. There are also amendments to the reports on organs, consumers and agricultural product quality.


James Nicholson’s national party, the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists – New Force, is part of the European Conservatives and Reformists, so his role is that of a party MEP. Groups get certain resources and being part of a political group increases your chances of forming alliances and getting high profile roles such as rapporteur, etc. So the role of the party MEP would be different to an independent MEP. Nicholson hasn’t acted as a rapporteur in the first year of this Parliament, though he has deputised for one in plenary and he has spoken on behalf of the ECR group on several issues. The questions seem to be specific and show the concern for free trade agreements and anti-red tape stance that you might expect from the right-to-centre-right, free trade, sovereigntist-leaning ECR, and the focus on agriculture in his speeches and his position on the Agriculture Committee echoes the rural interests of the constituency. The high attendance rate and high loyalty rate with the ECR group shows that he supports the ECR Europarty – an advantage in that you can vote for him or not based on the policies/ideology of the party and that the group is a voting bloc that can form alliances (whether or not it’s very successful at that is another question). According to his website: “Due to his experience and expertise in this field, Jim was appointed as coordinator for the ECR group for this policy area at the beginning of the new legislature.” Other constituency work isn’t measured on or put on the European Parliament website.

The number of questions and report amendments seem to both be generally 10 or under for most MEPs (though there are a few that ask a lot more). Though the number is low, it’s roughly equivalent to the performance of the rest of the MEPs. I think that Nicholson is generally doing a good job as a party MEP.

[For analysis on the other Northern Ireland MEPs and an overall analysis: link]

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